In almost every order President Biden signs and every policy his administration has proposed, “equity” is the governing principle. It is evident in Biden’s appointments, where his press secretary often highlights an individual’s immutable characteristics when asked about their qualifications or policies.
Principles of economic equity are also evident in the recent stimulus bill. States with lower unemployment rates are losing federal funding while mismanaged states receive more. The bill converted a child tax credit into a $300 per month payment whether the parent paid federal tax or not. The taxpayer has also bailed out multi-employer pensions for the first time. All of these are redistribution schemes meant to benefit favored groups. These examples are just the first glimpse into the administration’s equity plans.
Rasmussen has been polling American’s preference on economic priorities since 2013. A majority of voters have consistently preferred economic growth rather than economic fairness. The sentiment is no different in 2021. According to the poll:
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 71% of Likely U.S. Voters say policies that encourage economic growth are Very Important. That’s significantly more than the 52% of voters who say policies that encourage economic fairness are Very Important.
The preference for economic growth pulls a majority from all political affiliations:
Republicans strongly prefer economic growth as a policy goal. Eighty percent (80%) of GOP voters say policies that encourage economic growth are Very Important, compared to 64% of Democrats and 66% of unaffiliated voters.
The results for some demographics are surprising if you aren’t aware of the perspective college-educated Democrats bring to the political landscape. As David Shor, a political strategist for Barack Obama, noted in a recent interview:
“In liberal circles, racism has been defined in highly ideological terms. And this theoretical perspective on what racism means and the nature of racial inequality have become a big part of the group identity of college-educated Democrats, white and nonwhite. But it’s not necessarily how most nonwhite, working-class people understand racism.”
Broadly speaking, when these college-educated voters see disparities, they assume discrimination. This view is prevalent on the left and underlies almost all equity policies, including those that address economic, educational, or criminal justice issues. This analysis is simplistic in the extreme, as virtually any honest statistician can tell you. Pretty stunning that the most educated Democrats among us appear to view the world that way.
So, when you see that white respondents see economic fairness as very important at a rate of 54% while only 44% of black voters do, it isn’t shocking. Many white college-educated Democrat voters view economic inequality as they view all other disparities through their ideological lens of systemic racism. “Fairness” is a proxy for resolving that issue.
Further, while more voters who make less than $30,000 are likely to prioritize economic fairness, they do so less often than those making over $200,000. Using a broad assumption supported by historical data that college-educated voters have higher incomes, this tracks with Shor’s statement. To correct disparities, we must be more “fair.”
Unfortunately, economic fairness does not really encompass the full scope of policies that embrace equity as a principle. Polices and legislative priorities that have equity as a central goal usually adopt the perspective of theorists like Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. From his book, How to Be an Anti-Racist:
“The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.
Fair is defined as “in accordance with the rules or standards; legitimate,” and synonyms for the word are just, impartial, unbiased, unprejudiced, and non-partisan. By definition, policies to achieve equity in the current ideological frame require prejudice, bias, and partiality based solely on group identity. This position is antithetical to the American concept of justice, which can only be meted out on an individual basis. Even those who commit a crime together will have justice served based on their particular role in the illegal behavior.
However, social justice demands equity based on group identity, as does every other form of “justice” the far-left demands, including economic. It requires massive redistribution of wealth, through policies such as reparations, from a group that looks one way to a group that looks another with no regard for individual circumstance. It also requires massive government intervention in the workplace, our communities, schools, and the economy.
It will be interesting to see at what point the real implications of equity policies outstrip perceived political correctness and run afoul with Americans’ concept of fairness. A comment from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell about reparations, one economic equity policy, reflects how America would struggle with such an approach:
“I think we’re always a work in progress in this country, but no one currently alive was responsible for that [slavery], and I don’t think we should be trying to figure out how to compensate for it.”
“First of all, it’d be pretty hard to figure out who to compensate. We’ve had waves of immigrants as well come to the country and experience dramatic discrimination of one kind or another, so no, I don’t think reparations are a good idea.”
Equity and fairness are not the same things in the Western tradition of individual responsibility, meritocracy, and competence. If we lose those values, the economic growth most Americans prefer is not even possible. Equity builds a sense of entitlement that kills the motivation and potential for rewards that incentivize people to take the risks required to fire up the growth engine.